Meet the Model – Kenny the Kingfisher
by Graham Stewart
Say hello to the Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Most people are only ever likely to catch a flash of electric blue as the Kingfisher skims over the water, once perched, despite its vibrant colour (blue/green back and bright orange belly) it can be hard to spot from its shady perch as it sits watching eagerly for fish below, once it spots a fish it will bob its head up and down in order to gauge the position of the unsuspecting fish below, before diving in to the water. Once in the water the Kingfisher has transparent eyelids which protect its eyes.
17-19 cm in length with a beak in the region of 4cm long, wingspan 25cm approx.
Can be found on rivers and canals preferring still or slow flowing water. In the winter they can also be found in coastal regions. The Kingfisher lives in earth banks over water and their nest consists of a tunnel which can be up to 1m long with a nest chamber at the far end which is lined with fish bones.
Eats small fish, aquatic insects, frogs and freshwater shrimp. Once it catches a fish the Kingfisher can be seen repeatedly striking the fish against its perch in order to stun/kill the fish. This allows the spines in the fins to become relaxed before it can be swallowed head first. In order to survive a Kingfisher must consume its own body weight in food each day.
Typically 2, although sometimes 3 broods per year with approximately 6 eggs per brood between May and July, generally only 50% of fledgling Kingfishers will survive more than a few weeks, as many will either not have learnt to fish before their parents kick them out of the nest or from becoming water logged and drowning.
Listed as Amber on the RSPB list, the Kingfisher is particularly susceptible to cold weather, other factors such as predation by domestic cats and rats can influence the population.
All photography © Graham Stewart